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Lessons of the land

By Staff | May 13, 2011

Prairie Valley fifth-grade students gathered around a river model to learn about sediment pollution and how people work to prevent it.

EAGLE GROVE – As the water gushed into the river, soil washed into the stream, polluting it with sediment.

Well, actually it wasn’t soil. It was part of a model of a river – with fields and feedlots nearby – used to teach students about sediment pollution along rivers and how people work to keep rivers clean.

Fifth-graders from Prairie Valley gathered around the table as Webster County Conservation naturalist Karen Hansen talked about the sediment problem in Iowa’s rivers and streams.

“The best thing people can do is plant native prairie plants all along the streams,” said Hansen. She then placed green carpet to represent prairie grass along the model river to show how the long roots keep the soil in place while simultaneously filtering the water, thus creating a healthier stream and ecosystem.

“Everyone who works the land wants everyone to have clean water,” Hansen said.

Fort Dodge Fair Oaks Middle School students Bre Tjebben, right, and Selina Crioyos work on an experiment to extract6 DNA from a banana during a 21st Century Agriculture session at the 16th annual Youth Environmental Agriculture Days Thursday.

One of seven

This was one of seven different sessions fifth-grade students from Prairie Valley and Fort Dodge Fair Oaks Middle School attended at the 16th annual Youth Environmental Agriculture Days program held at the Wright County Fairgrounds in Eagle Grove.

The program was developed by Iowa State University Extension in Humboldt, Hamilton, Wright and Webster counties. It is designed to help youths understand the impact of agriculture on the environment and their everyday lives.

Students also learned about DNA in a 21st Century Agriculture session.

“You eat approximately 55 million cells or 93,205 miles of DNA in every meal,” said Bryan Whaley, the 4-H youth program specialist with the ISU Extension office in Humboldt County.

Students received bracelets that change colors based on UV ray exposure.

The session was a way to introduce students to the biotechnology side of agriculture as scientists work daily to create new hybrids, such as seeds, for better yields to feed more people on the same amount of land.

After explaining the basics of DNA and cells, Whaley and Linda Cline, the youth coordinator for ISU Extension in Webster County, helped students from Fair Oaks extract DNA from a banana.

“This is probably a lot of science when you thought you were going a field trip,” Whaley said to the students as they began the experiment.

It’s the educational aspect that Barb Langner loves.

Langner teaches science to Prairie Valley fifth-grade students.

“The best thing about this day is how it corresponds to our science curriculum,” Langner said.

The students were engaged in various activities asking questions and shouting out answers, like at the Energize Your Future session.

Renewable energy

“We have more people on the planet, but the same amount of resources, so we need to look at renewable energy,” Afton Holt, with NEW Cooperative, told a group of students. “What are some forms of renewable energy?”

Students shouted out wind and corn.

Holt said they were close with corn.

Biomass is the term used since it encompasses corn, switchgrass and even algae, among other items, as forms of alternative energy. She also talked about solar and geothermal energy.

In other sessions, students learned about sun safety, corn and soybean byproducts, Iowa’s soil and 4-H, and also the food cycle in the program From Farm to You.

Langner said it was good for the students to learn about farming since Iowa is a primarily agriculture-based state.

“Easily less than half of our kids are connected to agriculture anymore,” Langner said. “It’s difficult for the older generation to realize that because we grew up closely to it. That’s another reason we enjoy participating in this program.”

Contact Lindsey Mutchler at (515) 573-2141 or lindsey@messengernews.net

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